NHL Winter Classic

What did Tuukka Rask mean by his postgame comments?

What did Tuukka Rask mean by his postgame comments?

In the excitement following the Bruins' 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks in the NHL's annual Winter Classic, Tuukka Rask took a moment to reflect on the event, potentially hinting at his future plans. 

"This might be my last outdoor game, you never know," said Rask when asked about the experience of playing in the Winter Classic.

"It's a great experience to get the result. The next one, when it happens, maybe I'll be sitting up in the press box drinking beer, who knows."

Part of Rask's comments were likely an appreciation for how rare the opportunity to play outside in venues like Notre Dame in the NHL. But could they hint at something more?

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This season has been a struggle for Rask, no doubt about it. The pitchforks were out in force in Boston when Jaroslav Halak was thoroughly outplaying Rask, the incumbent goaltender from the last several years. He also took a personal leave of absence earlier in the season, and has played at a higher level since. 

Might Rask be contemplating retirement? He's been a quality goalie for the Bruins since taking over at the start of the 2013 season, but has yet to help deliver a championship, and has felt the full wrath of unhappy Boston sports fans on more than one occasion. 

The Bruins have played in three Winter Classics since its inception, and Rask was starting goaltender for two of them. It may be a while until Boston gets another chance, which could also be the source of Rask's thoughts that this may be his last one. 

No matter what lay behind his postgame comments, Bruins fans will be content if he keeps up the high level of play he showed on Tuesday, notching 36 saves in their win over the Blackhawks

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Brad Marchand excited to finally get his chance at the Winter Classic

Brad Marchand excited to finally get his chance at the Winter Classic

SOUTH BEND, Indiana – Brad Marchand wasn’t with the Bruins team back on January 1, 2010 during their first Winter Classic, and the Little Ball of Hate was suspended for the 2016 Winter Classic against the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium. So Marchand has never had a chance before to play in any of the outdoor games with the Black and Gold, and is excited for something new as an All-Star, Olympian and former Stanley Cup champ that’s experienced pretty much everything across the NHL spectrum at this point in his career.

“It hasn’t happened yet, so don’t jinx it,” said the 30-year-old Marchand, with his trademark smirk while joking about his suspension about a couple of years ago. “It’ll be an exciting game. It’s a very unique experience to be a part of something like this. It’s a fun time and a fun thing to be a part of.

“These are the things, games like this, that when you’re growing up you never think things like this are going to happen [for you]. So it’s very cool to be a part of something like this. It’s so different than what you are used like having the rink away from the stands, and the fans far away from the glass. It’s all different, and playing in front of 70,000 will be an incredible experience. Having no roof on the building…there are just so many things that are so unique about it. It’s not something that you’re going to get nervous about because there are way bigger games in the season, but it’s so different that it’s enjoyable to be a part of it.”

Despite missing last weekend’s win over Buffalo after taking a number of hard hits in the loss to the New Jersey Devils, it appears that the only way Marchand would miss the New Year’s Day game would be if he were to slewfoot the Notre Dame leprechaun mascot on the way out to the Notre Dame Stadium arena on the way to warm-ups. Short of that, the Bruins will have one of their best and most entertaining players on the outdoor ice this time around, and that should be good for everybody from the fans, the Bruins team and the Winter Classic product that the NHL has built into their centerpiece midseason event over the last ten years.  

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Winter Classic brings plenty of outdoor hockey memories for Bruins

Winter Classic brings plenty of outdoor hockey memories for Bruins

SOUTH BEND, Indiana – One of the best parts about the annual outdoor Winter Classic is the memories it churns up in the players. The vast majority of players who take part in the NHL’s signature event grew up playing outdoors on ponds, lakes or even in backyard rinks that have become more and more popular over the years.

The Bruins are no different, of course. Some players like David Krejci, or Kevan Miller, with his upbringing in California, simply never had that much experience playing outdoors when they were younger, and they’re making up for lost time now with the B’s involvement in Winter Classics every couple of seasons.

Still, for others, there’s a link between suiting up at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks on New Year’s Day and so many of those games outdoors with friends and family where things like the cold, the wind and winter elements just added enjoyment.

So, here are a few of the Bruins talking about their experience playing outdoors as youngsters and how those memories come flooding back with each Winter Classic that they participate in:

Patrice Bergeron: “It’s just childhood memories. I grew up skating on community outdoor rinks and small sheets of ice with my brother and friends after school or whenever we could sneak in some time. It definitely brings back a lot of memories. It’s the third one [for me], but it never gets old.”

Jake DeBrusk: “I did. I never thought I would be able to play in [an outdoor game], but I guess it’s one of those things where it comes full circle. It’s one of those special moments for me personally. I’m looking at it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was there once as a fan [at the Heritage Classic in Edmonton] and now I’m able to play in it. I’m going to try and take full advantage of the opportunity. Whether it was after school or whatever, there was a lot of [playing outdoors] in Edmonton. It was throwing sticks in the middle and then you get teams going to play out there. It was pretty natural.”  

Zdeno Chara: “We played a lot outdoors whether it was a frozen river or lake. It was always special to have that feeling as a kid of the fresh air, and playing on an uneven surface. Those were fun days and great memories. Playing outdoors where you separate the sticks and you’re playing with different friends, and you close your eyes and pretend you are ‘so and so’ player and you’re scoring the winning goal.”

Brad Marchand: “We always lived on a pond or a lake [in Nova Scotia] or had a backyard rink every year in the winter time. So it was an everyday thing that we did growing up. It was always very cold, so the lakes and ponds would freeze early. We’d spend a ton of time outside skating around. I keep saying I hope it snows [on New Year’s Day] because I just think it would add to the experience. It would be pretty cool to see.”

Charlie McAvoy: “Those were some of my favorite times [as a family] skating in the backyard rink. Some of my best childhood memories are just being out there with my dad because he was the one that got me into hockey. He’d be out there for what seemed like the whole winter with me. He’d always come out and skate with me after he’d worked all day. We’ve got some great pictures and memories of it. And I grew up watching [the Winter Classic], I think I was maybe 9 or 10 years old with the first one with the Penguins and Buffalo.”

David Backes: “A lot of outdoor hockey. Probably over half of my practices as a kid were on outdoor ice because it was free and readily available. We’d practice and then stay on to have some fun and screw around time with my buddies afterward. There’s a mental side of it where your toes were freezing, but you had to play through the pain and the agony to do what you loved to do.”

Joakim Nordstrom: “The rink I started skating on is a half-mile away from where I grew up was outdoors. It’s not an outdoor rink anymore, but it was until maybe 10 years ago. Next to that rink, there was a soccer field they would freeze over and leave it open for anybody that wanted to skate. So you would go there and skate basically anytime during the day or night because they’d leave the lights on all the time. You didn’t have to be a hockey player. You just had to have a pair of skates to go out there and enjoy skating around.”

Chris Wagner: “I had a pond down the street from my house that was about a five-minute walk, and it was pretty secluded. So it was pretty cool. It was a good spot. We played a lot. My brother and my dad would play, and the kids in the neighborhood. We had a pretty good crew. We also had a kid Tommy Harrington in Walpole that would put up the lights and stuff in his backyard. Yeah, it was right by the prison. We’d stay out pretty late playing. It was a snow hill right down the pond.”

Tuukka Rask: “I’m not a fan [of outdoor hockey]. But if it’s my turn to play, then I play. The stadium is so weird that I have a tough time picking up the puck. It’s that everything is so far away that the puck seems smaller. But it’s all in your eyes like when you’re not seeing the puck well in a game. Up until I was about eight years old I played outside all the time.”  

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